Monthly feedback and reflection is a great way to make sure everybody’s on track. After setting SMART goals, ‘continual performance feedback’ is the best way to make sure your team can achieve their goals. Continual performance feedback can happen in many ways, but monthly in the form of self-review is one of the best.
This case study is from a client who had given up on goals altogether. We introduced SMART goals, and to reinforce them, added monthly feedback. It made all the difference for his team.
The Initial Situation – No Goals
The engineers at one company I worked with spent most of their work days out at client sites. When the business owner first set goals for his team many years ago, he had such a bad experience with the end-of-year reviews that he gave up. At that time, he set the goals in January, and got-together with his team for one-to-one meetings in December. He didn’t do anything formal in between. During the year, he would turn up at jobs to see what was going on, and based most of his end-of-year opinion on those visits. He didn’t ask follow-up questions unless he saw something really bad happening or unless the client complained.
By the end of the year, his team generally thought they’d done OK, mostly because he’d not said otherwise. In the end-of-year meetings the business owner would let the individual know what he thought, warts and all. He took a very direct approach, and the feedback he provided was very blunt. Negative feedback was delivered as he saw it. The business owner thought showing a strong hand would be a good way of leading these meetings. Needless to say the meetings got emotional (on both sides) and degenerated into arguments, each side getting very defensive. In the end he stopped setting goals and stopped holding reviews at the end of the year.
What We Did – Monthly Feedback
This business owner only reinstated goals when he worked with me to help address some other challenges. We set up SMART goals so it was clear to both sides exactly what was expected, and what ‘good’ looked like. Crucially, we set up continual performance feedback processes at the same time we set up the SMART goals. I wanted to make sure that this time around he could make the end-of-year review a positive experience for both sides.
The key thing we implemented for continual performance feedback was monthly feedback specifically via employee self-evaluations. Each month his team all complete a simple review of themselves that makes them think about what they’ve been doing. It makes them think about how they’re doing and how they might change how they’re working if that would benefit everyone. He now schedules his team to meet with him one-to-one at least once a quarter and every month when he can. He uses the employee self-evaluations to provide him with information every month. That also helps if he can’t speak directly with someone one month. There’s now very little surprise at the end of the year, which means the end-of-year review meetings are much more constructive.
What We Did – Summary
We reinstated goals so everyone knows what’s expected of them. We made sure they were SMART goals so they’d be effective. Once everyone knew what they were trying to achieve, we made sure that once a month each person briefly reviewed themselves. That was followed up with a conversation so that assistance could be given when needed, or congratulations shared when deserved.
This has taken away the surprise that previously resulted in argument. By the end of the year everyone knows how it’s going. If it’s not going well, conversations have been had to try and turn things around. If someone still hasn’t performed well, it’s an easier conversation because both sides are expecting it. The conversation can be productive about what to do next rather than arguing about whether there’s a problem at all.
My Question To You
Do you set SMART goals? What sort of feedback do you provide during the year? Are your end-of-year reviews or appraisals productive meetings? If this is something you would like to discuss or would like some help with, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also buy my book Accelerate to Team Success which is available as a paperback or on Kindle.
About the Author:
Dr Nikki Faulkner founded Mulberry Bush Consulting to work with business leaders and their teams to make the 'People' side of their business as effective as possible. Mulberry Bush Consulting's specialty is helping small businesses who are new to having employees and helping businesses who are growing rapidly and increasing their employee-base at a rate that is creating a significant challenge.
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